The Champagne you were so kind as to send me the last year proved to be very good …and I should have troubled you this year … but that a very good batch was fortunately offered me here, on reasonable terms, which I thought it best to secure & avoid the delay & risks of importation. the risk of breakage alone is very great, as of the 400. bottles recieved through you, though well packed 153. had burst or forced out the cork & the wine lost.
To Fulwar Skipwith, July 11, 1804
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
Wise leaders surround a complaint with compliments.
Skipwith was an American diplomat in France. The previous year, he had secured for Jefferson a very good supply of champagne. The President would have ordered more, but he had the opportunity to buy good champagne in America and took it. He avoided both the delay and destruction of imports. Of 400 bottles in Skipwith’s shipment, 153 (38%) were lost, either through broken bottles or premature bottling, when excess fermentation popped the corks.
Jefferson loved his wine! He complimented Skipwith on the quality of the champagne and the care taken in packing it. Even so, much of it was wasted. Buying locally allowed Jefferson to enjoy all the wine he paid for, and perhaps, send a message …